Monday, July 4, 2011

Fancy Frozen Desserts

Falko continues to taunt me. I respond in kind.

Shamefully, I had never heard of semifreddo before. The Italian concoction (it translates to 'semi-cold'), I am told, is usually made with a mix of gelato and whipped cream, presented as a frozen cake or custard. I'm sure they must get pretty fancy. The one that I found doesn't call for gelato (thankfully), requiring instead simply your own eggs, sugar, and cream. As an added bonus, it is triple-layered; each third composes a radically different (and very accurate) taste. The first gives you a base of green pistachio cream, followed by a pink strawberry layer, and topped with a pure and simple vanilla flavour.

The technique is pretty straightforward in theory, being essentially three parallel processes occurring at the same time. First, you extract the essence of the flavours into milk, then you add beaten eggs and sugar to each, then to you add whipped cream to each, and assemble. It does eventually become time consuming when you have to wait for everything to chill or freeze, though, so it would probably be best to make this long ahead (up to 3 days) of when you intend to serve it.

Serving tips: though you can scoop it out of the loaf pan, I recommend turning it out on a platter and slicing it with a hot knife. It's very presentable, and you get a better cross-section (literally) of the different flavours. It does mean you'll probably have to eat most of it in one sitting, but I doubt many would mind that.

  • 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 4 Tbsp sugar, divided, plus 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries (about 4oz), hulled, halved
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1,1/3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
Line a metal loaf pan (approximately 9*5*3-inches) with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang on all sides.

Grind pistachios and 2 Tbs sugar in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer pistachio mixture to a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20min. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; strain, discarding solids. Stir in almond extract; set pistachio mixture aside.

Place remaining 1/2 cup milk in a separate small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15min. Set a strainer over another medium bowl; strain, discarding solids, and chill vanilla mixture.

Purée strawberries and 2 Tbs sugar in a food processor until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over another medium bowl; strain, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Stir in vanilla extract and set strawberry mixture aside.

Whisk eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Beat egg mixture at high speed until it triples in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170 degrees, about 3min. Remove bowl from over water and continue beating until thick and cool, about 3min. Add one third of egg mixture to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend.

Beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add on third of cream to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend. Cover vanilla and strawberry mixtures separately; chill. Pour pistachio mixture into pan; smooth top. Cover and freeze until firm, about 45min. Gently pour strawberry mixture over pistachio layer; smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 45min. Gently fold vanilla mixture to blend; pour over and smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 4hrs.

Ice Cream Bonbons
This is fancy and delicious, but before I talk about that, I have two issues with this dessert. First, I dislike the name "bonbon." Bonbon, to me, is the French word for candy -- just simple candy. Tootsie rolls and Hershey's chocolate are bonbons. But when the word is used in American English, it seems the height of presumption: "this thing is so good, we must give it a French name". An inaccurate French name. And frankly, the French are doing excellently well with their own desserts; they don't need this attributed to them.

My apologies. As you might have noticed, the adoption and misuse of foreign languages is a pet peeve of mine.

Secondly, the recipe is a bit of a cheat: it calls for ice cream as an ingredient. So I guess instead of being an alternative to homemade cream, it's more of a fancification of what you already have: a hardened chocolate shell with a center of ice cream and a sprinkling of rock salt. It's kind of complicated to make (you have to work fast), but well worth it if you want to turn store-bought ice cream into a fancy dessert. Besides, it's really tasty.

  • 10 oz extra-dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 oz good-quality white chocolate from a bar, chopped
  • 1 cup finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies
  • 1 pint ice cream // I used mint; they recommend caramel, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, or coffee
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the dark and white chocolates together. Scrape into a smaller bowl and let cool slightly.

Put the crushed cookies on a small plate. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper and place on in the freezer. Fill a cup with ice water.

Working very quickly, scoop a 1-Tbs-size scoop of ice cream, packing it tightly. Transfer it to the melted chocolate. Using a skewer, poke the rounded top of the ice cream and coat the ball in the chocolate. Lift the bonbon, allowing the excess chocolate to drip into the bowl. Dip the bottom of the bonbon in the cookie crumbs and set on the baking sheet. Sprinkle salt on top. Let stand for 10 seconds, then transfer the bonbon to the baking sheet in the freezer. Repeat to form the remaining bonbons; dip the ice cream scoop in the ice water between scoops. Freeze the bonbons until firm, 30min, then serve.

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